May 2020 - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Down with the Sickness: Protecting Our Local Live Music Culture

We are a little more than six months into the COVID-19 global health crisis. Though statistics in the U.S. are through the roof, states are in varying stages of reopening, the quarantined masses suffer from Spring fever, and Americans are divided into two camps: those who believe COVID-19 is a real concern and those who do not. As Virginia and Tennessee reopens, locally we’re seeing more and more people in restaurants and shopping centers, and some venues are starting to test the waters of hosting live music after a three-month drought. The opportunity for musicians to get back to work is a great thing, right? But I can’t help asking, is it safe?

Lawrence Olivier in the thriller Marathon Man
“Is it safe?”
Lawrence Olivier as Dr. Christian Szell in an iconic scene from the conspiracy thriller Marathon Man (Paramount Pictures 1976).

Back in May, I contributed a BCM blog post called The Day Live Music Died, which examined the toll COVID-19 was having on our Bristol area music scene. At that time, we were a little over a month into the national emergency; restaurants, bars, and a slew of live music venues had been shuttered, and the income of touring artists was confined to whatever online sales could be generated by selling merch and asking for Venmo tips during livestream concerts. The music industry as a whole was forced to hit pause. Fast forward to this:

Chase Rice Concert
Country music singer Chase Rice’s now- infamous selfie captured during a concert on June 27 outside Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary.

On Saturday, June 27 videos surfaced from a blatantly non-socially-distanced Chase Rice concert at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee. The country singer performed the show before an unmasked crowd of around 1,000 fans just as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Volunteer State was peaking at an all-time high of over 43,000 and 609 deaths. Rice was unapologetic in a video released to his Instagram page following the controversial show. Fellow artists Kelsea Ballerini and Jason Isbell checked his audacity on Twitter, then on Tuesday The Today Show covered the story and revealed Chris Janson had performed a similar concert in Filer, Idaho that same weekend.

I get it. Artists are losing their wealth by not touring. Concerts are their number one source of income. But if they truly care for their fans, as Rice claims he does in his video, don’t they have a responsibility to make sure venues hosting their concerts are enforcing social distancing guidelines to keep fans – and artists – safe at their shows?

The number of active COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States are at an all-time high right now. On July 1, the Centers for Disease Control had reported a staggering 127,299 deaths and 2,624,873 total cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. alone – that was 43,644 new reported cases from the day before. In comparison, the population of Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia combined is 44,352. Let that sink in.

COVID-19 Graph
Current COVID-19 sitch available at Covidgraph.com.

So what does this mean for artists here at home who desperately need income but are facing this very difficult situation? My advice to them would be to seek out venues that are taking their safety, and the safety of their patrons, very seriously. Social distancing is really the best solution for restaurants that offer live music, and I think the venues should state their protocols in writing for the artist and be open to working with them if they don’t feel they can safely perform.

A few years ago my interest in helping local musicians led to a side hustle as a booking agent and publicist. Last year I transitioned to mainly booking music at Lumac Rooftop Bar at The Bristol Hotel here in downtown Bristol, which has been amazing. When the pandemic hit, Lumac went dark for nine weeks. In late May, when the Commonwealth of Virginia entered Phase 2 of reopening, the hotel decided to book live music again to help revive the scene they had carefully cultivated over the previous year.

Though I was excited to book local musicians again because they desperately needed the work, I was also very nervous. I am super protective of the artists I work with and the hotel staff, and I have formed some lifelong friendships in both circles. Personally, I have been practicing social distancing and working from home since the onset of the pandemic. I have autoimmune issues, and my husband and I are caring for family members who likely would not survive if they caught the virus. I continue to be conflicted about sending artists into public spaces where I myself will not go. Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love live music and going to shows, and I made it a point to see as many performances as I could before COVID-19. These days I enjoy live shows online from the comfort of my couch.

Virginia’s guidelines on live music as of May, 27, 2020.

I read through Virginia’s guidelines for reopening and spoke with hotel management at length about safety protocols. The hotel’s general manager, Sean Copley, immediately put me at ease and reassured me that staff would go above and beyond to make artists feel protected and safe. He was equally concerned for the health and safety of his staff, along with the bar’s patrons, and incorporated some of my suggestions for live music into their protocols. In accordance with Virginia guidelines at the time, Lumac was allowed to reopen at 50% capacity – which is around 50 people – with tables seated six feet apart. Bar stools were removed as seating around the bar, and performers had to be distanced from patrons. Performances would be held outdoors on the patio, and Lumac provided more distancing between the artist and patrons than was mandated by the state. If artists were uncomfortable using the elevators, hotel staff would help load their equipment on the elevator for them while the artist was given access to the back stairwell.

Momma Molasses performing at Lumac Rooftop Bar above The Bristol Hotel May 22, 2020, all dolled up in her signature style and handmade cowgirl mask with fun fringe!

Ella Patrick, a.k.a. Momma Molasses, (who also hosts Folk Yeah! on WBCM Radio Bristol) agreed to be the first artist back to Lumac after the long hiatus. I spoke to her at length about safety precautions over the phone so she could make an informed decision about whether or not to take the gig. I also detailed that same information in the confirmation email I send out to all the artists. After the gig, she texted me the photo above and a heart emoji-filled message. It did my own heart good knowing she was back to earning a living, and that her experience was so positive.

I also reached out to JP Parsons, “Bristol’s own troubador” and host of Appalachian Travels on WBCM Radio Bristol, to perform the following evening, laying out all the safety measures. He had been performing a lot of shows online during the pandemic, and for a potential live show, he consulted his wife Shana before agreeing to perform. They have a young son together who I knew they’d want to protect, so I wasn’t sure if he’d take the gig. When I asked him how he felt about performing live at that time, he said, “I feel like if you know the location and the audience, I don’t really worry because I would be more careful not to get too close to people and just play my music. Hopefully stay healthy, protect myself and keep protecting others, but no one knows. I feel okay going.”

(L) Sullivan County, Tennessee COVID-19 spike on June 30, (R) Washington County, Virginia numbers on July 2.

On June 26 Bristolians were saddened to learn that one of our favorite Downtown eateries, Blackbird Bakery, had temporarily closed after announcing one of its employees had tested positive for COVID-19. On June 30 Sullivan County, Tennessee reported a spike in COVID-19 numbers, which jumped to 87 new cases in one day, with the total number standing at 174 cases. Combined with neighboring Washington County, Virginia, that’s 239 total cases in the region directly surrounding Bristol. These numbers may seem small in comparison to other communities, but those numbers could triple and quadruple quickly based on what we’re seeing across the country.

After news of Blackbird Bakery broke, Parsons took to Facebook to cancel his band’s July 4 performance at O’Mainnin’s Pub. A group I had booked to perform at Lumac reached out to me to cancel a scheduled July 3 show, also due to the spike in cases. Hotel management was so concerned that they asked me to cancel Amythyst Kiah‘s July 4 performance on the rooftop as well. Both venues are located about a block from Blackbird, and with all of these cases hitting so close to home, no one wanted to risk a heavy holiday crowd that could potentially create even more infections in our community.

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion’s 20th anniversary celebration rescheduled for September 10-12, 2021.

On Monday, July 6, the Birthplace of Country Music delivered the heartbreaking news that our beloved festival, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, would not take place this September as planned. With tears in my eyes as I write this, I can’t tell you how devastating this is for me emotionally. This would have been our 20th annual event – a huge milestone – and it isn’t happening. I will write a blog about this a little later and share with you all of the events leading up to the final Board of Director’s decision, which I stand by 100%, but for now I will only say this: events like ours would not have to cancel if such an alarming number of people weren’t still getting sick and dying from COVID-19.

It makes me hopeful to see our local music community doing what it can to protect our neighbors, especially when there are so many out there distorting the facts and showing complete disregard for the health of our community. The last few months have undoubtedly been difficult, with many pandemic-related hardships and challenges, but COVID-19 doesn’t care that it’s summer and that we’ve all been cooped up for months and can’t wait to get out of the house. It also doesn’t care who you are, how old you are, or where you stand on the issue. If we want to see live music again on a regular basis in Bristol, see our downtown businesses thriving instead of shutting their doors, and get our musicians back to work, we must do everything we can to keep each other safe. I, for one, am glad to be part of a music community that recognizes its responsibility to protect us and takes action to stop COVID-19 from taking more lives.

In closing, I beg you – pretty please, with sugar on top, wear a mask, wash those hands often, and practice social distancing as much as possible to keep our community safe and prospering. Thank you, in advance.

The Heirloom Recipe: Local Flavors to Fill Your Pot & Warm Your Heart

Radio Bristol’s Farm and Fun Time is the flagship show of Radio Bristol’s programming, and it continues to grow in popularity as we begin reaching a broader audience through television! Though the top-notch musical guests and host band Bill and the Belles often steal the show, music is just one part of the cultural celebration that is Farm and Fun Time. Each show also includes “Radio Bristol Farm Report” and “Heirloom Recipe” segments, which bring attention to regional food and farming.

The “Radio Bristol Farm Report” showcases regional farmers who are using innovative and sustainable ways to provide the best and safest products possible to people across Appalachia, while the “Heirloom Recipe” highlights the significance of food in our region’s culture. Just as one ingredient can be used to make many dishes, a recipe can mean many different things to different folks. Each recipe presenter, ranging from park rangers to professional chefs to writers, brings a distinct recipe with a meaningful history behind it. To cap it all off, Bill and the Belles plays and sings a new original jingle written to commemorate each recipe.

Cooking and passing down recipes is a big part of Appalachian culture, and the stories that go along with them often become part of our family – and wider – lore. With this first “Heirloom Recipe” post, we want to share a few of our past Farm and Fun Time segments that are exemplary of the rich food culture of Appalachia. But check back here as we’ll be sharing a new “Heirloom Recipe” post, written by our contributors, every few months on the BCM blog, plus of course, tune in to future Farm and Fun Time’s for new “Heirloom Recipes” – and then get cooking!

Kinney Rorrer: Banana Pudding

Kinney Rorrer is a renowned scholar of traditional music, the great-nephew of Posey Rorer and Charlie Poole, and a fine old-time musician in his own right with his group The New North Carolina Ramblers. A masterful storyteller, Kinney fondly recalls his mother’s banana pudding recipe. Learning to cook from her grandmother, Kinney’s mother helped prepare meals that her grandmother sold to cotton mill workers to earn extra money during the Great Depression. Kinney can be heard on Radio Bristol each Monday at 12:00 noon ET and Saturday at 3:00pm on The County Sales Radio Hour.

Chuck Gordon: Dr. Enuf

Not all “Heirloom Recipe” segments are homespun favorites; sometimes our contributors explore a regional favorite instead. Dr. Enuf has been bottled in Johnson City, Tennessee, since 1949, and we were fortunate to have Chuck Gordon stop by to talk about the history of this sparkling regional favorite.

Toni Doman: Cherry Pie

BCM staff member Toni Doman wears a lot of hats at the Birthplace of Country Music, including being one of our favorite “Heirloom Recipe” presenters. In her spare time, Toni likes to bake, especially pies, and she shared a recipe for cherry pie that she learned from her grandmother with the Farm and Fun Time audience. The recipe was great, but what made Toni’s presentation really special was the choreography with Summer Apostol who helped Toni with some visual aids and other special effects that made this an especially fun-filled segment! You can hear Toni each Thursday at 4:00pm ET on Mountain Song and Story on Radio Bristol!

Mother’s Day Spotlight: What You Might Not Know about Mother Maybelle

Today – May 10, 2020 – is both Mother’s Day here in the United States, and the anniversary of Mother Maybelle Carter’s birthday (May 10, 1909).

For so many of us, when we think of our mothers, it’s hard to look beyond the maternal. In other words, it’s hard for us to think of them as anything other than our mothers. But everyone’s mother has a life outside that – interests, stories, dreams, regrets, adventures, achievements, and so much more.

And that idea made us think about Maybelle. We all know about the significance and legacy of Maybelle Carter in the history of country, and American, music. That is a huge part of her story – but what about the other parts of her story? Some of you may know all about her, some may only know about her music, and some may not know much at all. And so let’s explore just a few of the lesser known aspects of this great woman!

Mother Maybelle

First, we’ll start with a musical aspect: Why was she called Mother Maybelle?

Of course, Maybelle was a mother herself to Helen, Anita, and June, and after the original Carter Family stopped performing together in 1943, Maybelle and her daughters took to the road as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. Maybelle was only in her early 30s at the start of this period – imagine performing on the radio and on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, traveling the country for performances, living out of hotels and eating at diners, all with three young girls in tow!

The Mother Maybelle name might have been part of their band persona, but she kept this moniker for the rest of her career. And everything she did underlined this role – as matriarch and mentor to so many. For instance, she took on some younger musicians as part of her act, musicians like Chet Atkins who played guitar as sideman with Maybelle and her daughters for a time – Maybelle seeing Atkins potential and talent before it was more widely recognized. She also looked after a host of other musicians in the midst of their personal struggles, including Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. And, of course, she influenced many with her extraordinary guitar playing and all-around musical prowess, including Earl Scruggs, and later, acts like the New Lost City Ramblers and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band who invited her to perform with them because of the legacy she carried with her from the early days of country music. When she appeared on stage with these bands or at the folk festivals of the 1960s, the 20-something audiences looked up at this maternal figure and saw greatness.

As Tift Merritt noted on NPR’s All Things Considered: Maybelle Carter “defined a genre with her musicianship and her grace. More than as the great mother of her craft, her contributions as a caretaker, female and exemplar human deserve our deepest admiration.”

Life in the Fast Lane

Maybelle may be revered as a musical legend, and she may have been a steadying force to her family and her surrogate family of young, and often troubled, musicians, but she had a bit of a wild side herself. When on tour, Maybelle often drove – and she put her foot down hard on the pedal. Apparently, her husband Eck was also known as a speed demon so one imagines that when either of them was behind the wheel, there might have been a lot of backseat driving going on from the girls. And Maybelle wasn’t only a lover of fast cars; she also rode an Indian-model motorcycle!

Sepia-style image showing Eck at the front of the motorcycle with Maybelle seated behind him. Both wear helmets. They seem to be in a field or yard in front of a white house.
Maybelle and Eck on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Found on www.worthpoint.com

Maybelle also looked to Lady Luck as she indulged her love of bingo and cards, and when on tour in places like Las Vegas and Tahoe, she played the slots. She enjoyed horse races and also went down to the dog tracks frequently, looking to pick a winner. Her bets on all of these gambles were low-stakes but that didn’t take away the pleasure she got from playing.

The Everyday Life

With any famous person, it’s sometimes hard to imagine them out of the spotlight and living an “everyday life” – taking part in the day-to-day domestic tasks, having hobbies and interests, not performing but just living. But, of course, they do, and Maybelle was no different. She was quite a mean cook – from tomato gravy to chicken gizzard soup to other homestyle favorites, many of which are recorded in June Carter Cash’s Mother Maybelle’s Cookbook, along with a host of family stories. She also enjoyed hunting and fishing – grandson John Carter Cash has a photograph of her and Eck standing in front of a truck bed covered in fish they’d caught. And she let loose and had a good time bowling and playing pool with family and friends. And while music on the stage may have been Maybelle’s livelihood, making music at home was often just as important.

Hunting and fishing licence with Maybelle's name, address, descriptive details, and signature. It was issued in 1975.

Maybelle’s Tennesee hunting and fishing license, issued in 1975 only a few years before she passed away, was on display in the museum’s very first special exhibit, The Carter Family: Lives and Legacies. Carter/Cash Family Collection, Ms2009-090, Special Collections, University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Caregiver

Maybelle’s kindness, generosity, and care for others – so much a part of her musical story – also came into play with her “second” job. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, though Maybelle was still performing at the Grand Ole Opry on the weekends and with other gigs, her daughters began to go their separate ways with families and their own careers (plus the music world was changing), and so Maybelle needed to supplement her income. Therefore, for a while, she worked at a local hospital as a certified practical nurse at night, helping to sit with and care for the elderly.

And so…Happy Mother (Maybelle)’s Day

These are just a few of the things that both define Maybelle Carter as the matriarch of a genre and also take us beyond her life in music to see her as an everyday person too. In Maybelle’s story, we can find inspiration, good memories and stories, and a continuing influence down through the ages. Once again, Tift Merritt sums it up well, defining Mother Maybelle not only in relation to her musical legacy but also in terms that define so many of our own mothers: “A woman of craft rather than of spectacle, Maybelle Carter was more than a great guitar player: She was a perfect bandmate. Deep in the House of Music, down the halls of life-long practice, Maybelle Carter, the unspoken Great Mother of rhythm guitar, blends in with her harmony singing, steps out when asked and breezily holds down the rhythm and the lead on her instrument as if it were no big deal.”

* If you want to know more about Maybelle as a guitarist, check out Greg Reish’s Instrument Interview with her 1928 Gibson L-5 guitar.

The Day Live Music Died

Singin’ the COVID-19 Blues

The emotional and financial devastation of the global COVID-19 crisis is TBD – like so many gigs that musicians and venues have cancelled until further notice. The lives and safety of humans is priority one, and social distancing has become the catchphrase for 2020. But with the sheer volume of full-time touring musicians out of work, the pandemic is forcing artists to get creative with new revenue streams now that touring – their numero uno source of income – has ceased.

Earleine and Momma Molasses performing “Coronavirus Blues,” a song they wrote to the tune of Bill Monroe’s “Rocky Road Blues.”

The moguls who make up the big labels and agencies will likely be okay. It’s the little guys that are suffering most, the singer-songwriters and bands that pack up their used Econolines and hit the road singing for their supper in bars, breweries, and small venues. Many of them also lack health insurance because they can’t afford to pay the premiums, let alone the high cost of hospitalization if they become ill, in general or with the severe symptoms of COVID-19.

They say in Bristol you can’t swing a banjo without hitting a musician, and that about sums it up. A majority of them keep day jobs and gig on the weekends, while some depend on live performances to pay the rent. Growing up in Bristol’s music scene, I’ve been blessed to develop some very dear friendships among artists and agents, and I’m really feeling for them right now. I’ve reached out to a few locally to see how this massive industry lock down is affecting their livelihoods. Among those I spoke with, there was some fear, but an overwhelming amount of optimism. But they all agreed with one thing: social distancing is the right thing to do to keep their fans safe.

Amythyst Kiah wearing a Hawaiian-style shirt and black hat with a fan wearing a similar hat.
Amythyst Kiah posing with a fan at a Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2019 meet-and-greet.

In mid-March, pre-lock down, I caught up with Amythyst Kiah, who spends part of the year touring internationally. Fresh from a Grammy nomination, her tour schedule was packed with gigs that included dates opening for Yola and an event on a cruise ship embarking from Canada. It all screeched to a halt when the pandemic hit. She’s now hunkering down at home with her dad Carl Phillips in Johnson City.

“We both got COVID tests just to see if we were asymptomatic carriers, and we are in the clear,” said Amythyst. “Doing what we can to stay informed and safe during this crazy time!”

Amythyst has hooked up with some killer live stream events like Shut In & Sing, Martin Guitar Presents Jam In Place, Sixthman Sessions – Mi Casa, Su Casa!, and Parlor Room Home Sessions, most of which are available for online viewing.

Ella Patrick, a.k.a. Momma Molasses, wearing a colorful plaid bandana as a face mask.
Ella Patrick, a.k.a. Momma Molasses, in her homemade COVID-wear, the hottest style of the season!

Ella Patrick, a.k.a. Momma Molasses, moved to Bristol from North Carolina to pursue a full-time career in music. She hosts a show on WBCM Radio Bristol called Folk Yeah! and pays the bills gigging in breweries and venues across Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina full-time. She recently performed to a stay-at-home audience for Believe in Bristol‘s Border Bash Social Distancing Series – a show that, during any other time, would have been held outdoors on State Street.

“I think in some ways, you know, it’s a blessing and curse because it’s forcing musicians like myself to really delve into the internet-land and reach people online,” said Ella in a recent interview with WCYB News 5. “I’ve done several live streams and made enough to pay my rent, so that’s good!”

I get the feeling that a lot of great music (and COVID babies!) will be born during the pandemic, like the song Ella and East Tennessee singer-songwriter Earleine collaborated on during the first couple weeks of the quarantine when their entire spring gig schedules got axed. Like so many great folk songs, the underlying tragedy described in “Coronavirus Blues” is only slightly elevated by a light and playful melody.

B&W image of Bill & the Belles sitting on a front porch. Kalia and Helen wear face masks with Kris sitting on the stoop below them and the words Farm n' Fun Time hang on a banner above them.
Kalia Yeagle, Kris Truelsen, and Helena Hunt of Bill and the Belles in a promo pic for Radio Bristol’s Farm and Fun Time Home Edition, produced during the quarantine.

Kris Truelsen, producer at WBCM Radio Bristol and bandleader of the indie group Bill and the Belles, discussed some of the more creative ways artists are working to connect without the benefit of touring.

“Many artists are using their Patreon accounts to develop closer interaction with fans,” said Kris. “As artists are unable to travel, they want their fan base to know how crucial they are to them. Many are developing specialized content for their top fans which, in turn, is helping to generate some income and help them feel connected during this trying time. Some are teasing new songs, or even playing rough drafts of songs for fans, some are giving a behind-the-scenes look into the creative process. Others are hosting VIP concerts for only a few close fans.”

Kris continued, “Last week I sat in on the Barefoot Movement’s weekly online concert where viewers are encouraged to donate and to participate in the show through commenting. The band has been doing these since mid-March and has also been spotlighting a few artists a week to sit in, play a few songs, and chat. They also play fan favorites while each member is self-isolated in a different location, sing a weekly cover song as voted on by fans, and more. It was a really cool way to see how effective this format can be for artists that have a dedicated fan base.”

Kris hosts Radio Bristol’s monthly variety show Farm and Fun Time with Bill and the Belles (the show’s house band) live from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, which has closed temporarily due to COVID-19. The trio went live from Kris’s front porch for a special Home Edition in April and are planning another from his home on May 14.

Beth Snapp in overalls wearing a dark blue denim face mask.
Beth Snapp sporting the latest pandemic fashion accessory: a denim face masked made by L.C. King Mfg. in Bristol, Tennessee.

Kingsport-based singer-songwriter Beth Snapp works in healthcare but says she hasn’t concentrated much on selling her music during the quarantine.

“Nope,” Beth commented. “Honestly I’ve not been pushing hard for it because I’ve had a lot of illness and have been working at the hospital – at least for now, probably will lose hours there too. Stressful times. I do think, however, people have to focus on essential purchases right now and money for a new piece of merch is likely not in the budget. I know it’s not for me, so I’m certainly not judging anyone for the same. I [was] excited to do a live streaming show…(my first one!) not necessarily for the income, but to see who tunes in. I’ve missed playing for folks.” Beth performed for the online Border Bash Social Distancing Series on Thursday, April 30 on Facebook Live.

Kris Truelsen says he’s not pushing merch sales either, but Bill and the Belles have seen a spike in sales. “For my band, personally, we have seen merch sales go up from the onset of COVID-19, though we haven’t been pushing sales too hard for income. We all are lucky enough to have remained employed by our other jobs. I really feel for full-time artists right now as they are struggling.”

Jon McGlocklin's face mask is high-tech black!
Jon McGlocklin, CEO of Middle Fork Records, in all black, mask included.

Small regional booking and artist management agencies are also among the casualties of COVID-19, including Middle Fork Records. Bristol resident and Southwest Virginia native Jon McGlocklin founded the agency in 2017 and it’s his full-time job. He manages and books gigs for the group Virginia Ground (of which he is a founding member) and handles booking for a number of regional concert series, festivals, and venues including The Pinnacle, Beech Mountain Resort, and 7 Dogs Brewpub, to name a few.

“When this pandemic set in, I spent my days canceling everything I had spent months on booking,” Jon revealed. “Middle Fork Records has helped raise money for artists and bands, but hasn’t made money since February. The online support started with a bang but seems to have slowed with the effects of prolonged quarantine and patrons facing layoffs and being furloughed from their jobs. What was thought to be a 2–3 week quarantine has turned into something entirely different. Different but necessary. Staying healthy and safe and flattening the curve is still priority #1 amongst the arts community from what I am seeing.”

Middle Fork Records has partnered with Beech Mountain Resort to produce a Virtual Watch Party Series featuring Jamen Denton, Morgan Wade, Josh Daniel, and others. The company is also working with ElextraLand Radio in Gainesville, Florida to produce an international series. And 100% of the virtual tips collected through these ventures will go to the artists.

At the end of the day, gigging musicians are running a small business, and without paying gigs the entire chain of artist management and booking agencies break down. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music pay mere pennies to indies unless they generate millions of plays. Online tip jars aren’t a replacement for contracted guarantees at venues. Additionally, artists must front the cash to order more merch before they can sell it to fans online, and online stores also take a cut of the profits. The trickle-down of business loss will affect CD suppliers, graphic designers who make tour posters, promotional product companies, etc. The long-term effects of the pandemic are yet to be seen, but many are hopeful these winds of change will wake up the existing music industry and that things will change for the better.

“This issue isn’t going to resolve once the stay at home order ceases,” Truelsen concluded. “This will be an ongoing issue for career development for a long time to come. I hope it can bring some positive change as the career of a full-time artist has gotten more and more difficult to navigate over the past few decades and the industry in many respects has taken advantage of artists. If anything, this crisis has shown that artists are incredibly resourceful and in many ways can generate sufficient income without the industry.”

“The struggle is real, but we’re going to come out of this and throw some of the most epic events in the region when everyone can start gathering again!” added McGlocklin.

Amen, brother. AMEN.

Speaking of epic events, all of the folks I spoke with for this blog post are scheduled to perform at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion this September. There are no plans to cancel or postpone the festival at this time, and it will be a great party if everyone to continues to practice social distancing and looks out for each other! Stay safe out there, franz!

Radio Bristol Book Club: Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club! Each month readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together to celebrate and explore one book inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage. We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of the month at 11:00am when we will dig deep into the feelings and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

The cover of Clapton's Guitar shows a Wayne Henderson guitar upright beside the title text.

The cover of Allen St. John’s Clapton’s Guitar.

This month’s Radio Bristol Book Club pick is Allen St. John’s Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument, published in 2005. This book is the telling of the author’s journey to find the “world’s greatest guitar” and how he instead stumbled upon local luthier Wayne Henderson, the “world’s greatest guitar builder.” The author spent lots of time with the humble and quiet Henderson as he plied his trade, in the process learning about the traditions and craft of guitar building but also about community, history, and friendship. This book is sure to be a local favorite as Wayne Henderson is a luthier from our neck of the woods.

Wayne and Jayne Henderson measure the fretboard on a guitar-in-progress in Wayne's cluttered woodshop.

Wayne Henderson working on a guitar with his daughter Jayne. © Virginia Folklife Program; photographer: Pat Jarrett

Allen St. John has written for a variety of publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, Salon, The Village Voice, The Washington Post Book World, and Men’s Journal. Much of his writing is focused on sports, and in 2003 he worked with radio personality Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo to co-author The Mad Dog 100: The Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time. St. John has won several writing awards during his career. A self-professed “guitar geek,” St. John now owns his very own Henderson guitar.

Make plans to read Clapton’s Guitar and then join us on Thursday, May 28 at 11:00am as we discuss this wonderful book! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this deeply researched story about a craftsman beyond measure.

Our Radio Bristol Book Club pick for June is Halfway to the Sky by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

* If you are interested in other instrument-building craftspeople, along with those who are working to keep a whole host of other traditions and folkways alive, check out this blog post about our current special exhibit, Real Folk: Passing on Trades & Traditions Through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program. You can experience the exhibit virtually starting next Thursday, May 7 via our website. Wayne Henderson participated in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, mentoring his daughter Jayne in 2013.